By Mike Vellano
There’s never been a more exciting – or challenging – time to be part of this industry. We’ve witnessed significant disruption across all sectors of construction, which has added tremendous complexity to both below and above ground projects. Although the ripple effects of 2020’s global shutdowns will continue through the coming year, knowing how to anticipate and navigate these challenges will help minimize their impact on customers. Fortunately, several key industry-shaping technology trends for 2022 will enable engineers to make strategic shifts and help push jobs forward.
Supply Chain Disruption
The state of the global supply chain is the foremost thought in the industry. From a traditional perspective, supply chain conversations typically center on the availability of curing agents and other materials. However, what we’re seeing today extends beyond the availability of specific materials. In some instances, a material might be available, but the package used to transport it is not. Slowdowns at ports around the world are also constricting the ability to transport materials to the job site.
We’ve been fortunate to shore up our materials so that we can offer an uninterrupted flow of products, including geopolymers, which have lately become difficult to obtain. However, some job site managers are panic buying materials based on mid-2022 allocation concerns and challenges. Some companies have even stockpiled a four-month supply of liner. The higher prices, shortages from over-purchasing supplies and existing supply chain disruptions will continue to be felt until 2023.
Embrace New Approaches
Given this reality, alternative approaches to conventional issues will gain traction in the new year. Consider that many regions are still using very traditional applications for pipe repair, such as cast-iron pipe for plumbing applications and ductile pipe for water applications. Given the ongoing global supply chain challenge, doing things the way they’ve always been done not only puts projects in jeopardy, but it also prevents job sites from using the optimal solution. Engineers and contractors can position their customers to thrive in the coming year by broadening their customers’ horizons to consider different or new methods that offer field-proven performance and can increase design life by more than 50 years.
Now is the time to break away from the confines of legacy techniques and embrace a new method, such as a semi-structural repair rather than a structural repair. When it comes to large diameter pipes, there are at least five unique repair options to consider when evaluating what is best to restore that asset. This gives engineers incredible flexibility to identify the best approach to satisfy the unique dynamics of the job, both in terms of the physical environment as well as budget.
Technologies to Watch
In addition to alternative approaches, novel technologies will also gain greater adoption in the next 12 months. Part of this will be driven by the infrastructure bill, which prioritizes technologies that are cost-effective, made in America and more sustainable. The Federal government will continue to drive the growth of trenchless technologies and will accelerate the pace of project completion. This will also have a tremendous impact on small diameter pipe rehabilitation, which represents 80-85 percent of the repairable inventory in the United States.
Continued adoption of the Cured-In-Place Pipe process (CIPP) and UV liners are expected over the next several months. As the most common and proven form of trenchless technology, CIPP provides unbeatable performance, quality, and versatility that is especially needed now. CIPP’s technology enables it to be strong and structurally independent, enabling its design to determine how much it should rely on the host pipe for any structural strength contribution. It’s the fastest, least disruptive and most cost-effective pipe rehabilitation solution. Unlike most CIPP liners, UV liners are cured by ultraviolet light rather than thermo cure which uses steam or water. Both technologies have unique efficiencies and in the case of our own UV offering, it reduces footprint and emissions.
Geopolymers offer several advantages compared to conventional concrete, which contributes to the growing use of this material in trenchless, structural renewal of raw storm and wastewater infrastructure.
Both bursting and lining water technologies will also see increased use over the next several months. Such water technologies are very attractive as they can repair twice the amount of water utilities without increasing the cost. Bursting’s fracturing and displacing technology for existing buried sewer lines allows simultaneous replacement with new pipes. Water liners such as our new water epoxy, CIPP H20, eliminates the traditional labor- and digging-intensive line removal and replacement of potable water lines.
Robotics have steadily made inroads in pipe rehabilitation projects, and that’s expected to continue. As a provider of robotic, lining and software infrastructure solutions, we’re excited to facilitate greater use of robotic products to help transform the industry and simplify repairs. Electric and battery-operated options are available to perform a myriad of tasks in small or hard-to-reach sections of pipe, including descaling, removing debris, installing lateral plugs and connection seals, and performing point repairs. Additionally, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the assessment phase will continue to grow. Our Protocol Type Assessment Certification Protocol is an example of the strategic application of AI to aid engineers in deploying CIPP rehabilitation quickly and accurately.
While material availability may continue to prove challenging over the next 12 months, the new year holds more opportunities than ever for engineers to investigate new approaches and technologies. This ultimately benefits customers, as it expands the options available for any given project to ensure the method selected is truly the best in terms of performance, longevity and cost. Understanding the trends that will most impact the industry will enable engineers to be nimble and responsive regardless of supply chain disruptions.